FALL OF A SUPERCOP
For years, Vancouver’s top anti-gang cop was on a private hunt for $100 million in terrorist cash. Was Bill Chu a hero, a scam artist or just plain crazy?
Sgt. Bill Chu was not the kind of underworld investigator to feel dismayed when his face was shown on television. Movie star handsome, he enjoyed being the poster boy of the Vancouver Police Department, claim-
ing it drew ego-swollen informants his way. As the most prominent member of the Asian Organized Crime Section for 12 years, and head of the elite Gang Crime Unit for another four, Chu was usually available to be inter viewed about the gangsters he'd sent to jail for murder, drug trafficking or extortion. His exotic targets in the Triads and the Big Circle Boys gangs were of interest around the world, garnering him invitations to give keynote talks at law enforcement confer ences on four continents. Chu's reputation was so stellar that Crown prosecutors often asked him to prepare intricate court briefs and had him testify as an expert witness in a string of headline trials. 4
I’d first met Chu in 1989, and over the years had interviewed him for television and magazine articles. In 2004, when I invited him to the launch of a book I’d written that featured him as a major player,
I was shocked to learn the department had encouraged him to reach an agreement of separation from the police, with no farewell party and no public announcement. The officer who informed me sotto voce about the 45-year-old Chu’s early retirement said there had been a classified internal investigation into Chu’s activities “outside the force.” The coffee room gossip was that Chu had become “buddy-buddy with a so-called informant” who’d turned Chu into “a secret agent gone squirrelly.” Beyond these intriguing details it was impossible to find out what, precisely, he’d done wrong. At Criminal Intelligence Service conferences for which I was the keynote speaker, cops told me little more than that Chu had become “an embarrassment” to the VPD and that he’d left the country.
Chu’s silent disappearance never made the press and his whereabouts were a mystery until late 2006 when, out of the blue, he began frenetically phoning everybody in his address book, leaving the impression he was in desperate straits. Chu’s older brother, Ivan, a sergeant with the New Westminster Police Service, suggested to his relatives that I be brought into the loop to see if I could find out what was going on. The family asked Chu’s former boss on the Asian squad, Andy Nimmo, to call me. Suddenly I learned that for the past two years Chu had been “over in Hong Kong, hanging out with the wrong kind of people,”
that before he’d left town he’d “ruined his life and his wife’s life,” and that what he’d been up to was “so eccentric and crazy” that he’d turned himself into “a pretty big story.”
Two days later I walked into the lobby of the Atrium Hotel in East Vancouver for a meeting with retired Staff Sgt. Nimmo, a bear of a guy with a 10-day growth of beard who, back in 1989, had approved my first interview with Chu. Nimmo brought along Chu’s wife of 20 years, Elaine, a beautiful, ravenhaired Filipina, dressed fashionably but looking bewildered and exhausted. “We’re just kind of at a loss,” she said, raising and lowering her hands helplessly. “We really don’t know what’s going on now.”
By “we,” Elaine was alluding to herself, her parents, Bill Chu’s parents, their entire
extended family of brothers, sisters, in-laws and cousins, plus a coterie of the richest Chinese businessmen in town. In the years leading up to Chu’s departure from the force, he had managed to pry from these people over a million dollars. By the time he had abandoned everyone for a life of exile, his family home had been sold to pay his debts, and the houses of his parents and Elaine’s parents had been mortgaged to the rafters. Now, after two years of silence, Chu was blowing the lid off his own secret life, begging for money again and bringing added torment to those he’d left behind. “This all involves the individual that Bill’s been hanging around with now for 10 years,” Nimmo explained. “He’s the one who’s been such a major factor in his story.”
The individual’s full name, I determined later, was Albert Ho Wing Cheung—“the socalled informant” I’d heard about—a short,
obese confidence man who, in 1996, had somehow bewitched Chu into going along with a wild scheme. Unbeknownst to anyone on the force, Cheung had Chu monitoring cruise ships out of Nassau and flying off on missions to Florida, England and Asia. With Chu’s help, Cheung had inserted himself into the informant roster of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and, after he bungled that affair, apparently persuaded Chu to use his Gang Crime Unit to follow leads that almost always went nowhere. Chu had handed Cheung every penny he had borrowed and, in January 2004, when Cheung was arrested at the U.S. border on five counts of bank fraud, Chu lent his moral support as Cheung plea-bargained his sentence to four months’ jail time and five years’ supervised release. By the time of Cheung’s arrest, the internal investigation into Chu’s sideline activity was in full swing, and it would not have been illogical for the VPD to assume that if Chu’s long business partnership with Cheung persisted and became public, many of the convictions the gangbuster had been instrumental in obtaining might have to be reviewed.
Hence, his reputation as an “embarrassment” to the department.
When I asked Elaine what her husband and Albert Cheung had actually been up to, she said the pair had always claimed they were engaged in an anti-terrorism operation. “Bill said that he was going to get knighted by the Queen for saving the British people. And he was also going to receive a large sum of money, a reward. And Albert said it would be in the millions.”
“That’s assuming that what Bill is telling everybody is true,” Nimmo remarked, scratching his beard.
mm grew up in two worlds,” Bill Chu told Il I me in August 1989, when he was 30. I He wore a yellow golf shirt, jeans I and runners, and his manner was I as open and easygoing as his dress. I We were discussing Chu’s two worlds because he was then the only Asian on the 12-man Asian squad, one of the only Asians on the entire force. “I think in this Asian section they’d be amenable to learning about Chinese culture,” he said, “but in the department as a whole you gotta shove the stuff down their throats. Police have their biases, but I’m saying, ‘You’re dealing with a culture, you gotta know something about it!’ ”
We were just five minutes into our first interview, and Chu hadn’t told me his reflections on police “biases” were off the record. I remember thinking two things: Chu is an utterly
trusting man and he’s lonely on the force.
Chu talked for three hours about his life, gangsters and police work. He was born in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond on June 27, 1959Although he’d learned Cantonese from his conservative immigrant parents, his Asian classmates called him “banana”—meaning he was yellow on the outside but white on the inside. He played quarterback for his high-school football team, read spy and crime thrillers, and, drawn to a life of heroic action, decided he wanted to be a cop. At age 19, he entered the VPD’s patrol division. His superiors were so impressed by his ability to handle informants that he was promoted to the Strike Force, a unit that conducted targeted
investigations. In 1987, he was one of the ace cops chosen to form the Asian squad.
Vancouver was then enduring a plague of shootouts between Chinese gangs, and one of Chu’s targets was a powerful Gum Wah gang leader named Steven Wong. At the time of our interview I was contemplating a TV exposé on Wong, using a hidden mike and a telephoto lens. When I asked Chu if he could give me Wong’s home address, he hesitated, leery at collaborating on recording someone without a warrant. When I said I’d need to put him on camera to talk about Wong, he lost his caution, explaining the best time for me to show up at Wong’s mansion, and offering tips on how to keep him talking when I got in the door. “Bill just loved being on TV,” his wife, Elaine, would later explain to me. “For Bill, recognition was always the lure.”
Looking at Bill Chu on that old CBC tape now, I’m struck by how much he resembles the Hong Kong heartthrob Chow Yun-Fat. In the early 1990s, he made good use of his looks and easygoing manner to gather information at a restaurant called the Tomokazu, talking up gang girls and sharing meals with debonair mobsters who trusted him enough to feed him tips about their enemies. The Tomokazu was the toniest place in the Robson Street district, and it was also frequented by ultra-wealthy businessmen, although the restaurant’s owner, Ray Chau, was different from his law-abiding guests, and his secret life drew the attention of the Department of Immigration. Chau, whose mother was partners with Macau’s gambling king, Stanley Ho, had spent years in a Hong Kong jail on a heroin conviction and owned a bodyguard service that employed the Gum Wah leader Steven Wong, who used it to guard crime bosses when they got off the plane from Asia. In 1992, Ray Chau lost $8 million
HIS TARGETS IN THE TRIADS
AND BIG CIRCLE WERE OF INTEREST AROUND THE WORLD
gambling, covering his debts in enterprises the Mounties were trying to clarify.
In the corner of the restaurant was a karaoke stage, and things got raucous up there afterhours. Ever since the days when Chu had been a high-school football star, he’d enjoyed drinking with friends, and in the Tomokazu he often sang the night away arm-in-arm with the adoring Ray. The line is a little blurred as to when intelligence cops are onor offduty, but those who knew Chu best back then say there was something wrong with Chu’s drunken performances in the Tomokazu. There is a clear boundary set by the police
between acting as if you’re a friend to a convicted drug dealer, and actually becoming a friend. In spring 1994, when the Department of Immigration used Ray Chau’s undeclared heroin conviction to begin deportation proceedings, Chu became upset, and lobbied unsuccessfully to help him stay in the country. Looking back, cops say Chu’s affection for Ray Chau should have been recognized as a sign that he was susceptible to manipulation by flattering schemers.
After the Tomokazu was shuttered, the high-roller gatherings moved to the Thai House restaurant. One day in late 1994, one of the regulars picked up the phone and called the VPD’s Internal Investigations section. He alleged that Bill Chu and another cop had extorted $50,000 from a wealthy customer, and an investigation was launched. According to Bill’s brother, police Sgt. Ivan Chu, the situation was crystal clear to Bill: the accuser and an accomplice were trying “to divert Bill’s energies away from him being able to work in Asian crime.” But the complainant stuck to his story and the investigation proceeded, with Chu feeling as if he were being crushed by grinding gears. He began to drink more frequently, including at home, and embarked on an unhappy extramarital affair.
It was at his lowest point in a year of constant anxiety that a man previously unknown to Chu stepped forward. His name was Albert Cheung, a five-foot-three, 170-lb. Hong Kong Chinese whose favourite attire was loud Hawaiian shirts, shorts and white ankle socks. Cheung, 33, was an ex-informant for the Boston police who’d moved to Washington state and was now sojourning in Vancouver with his 95-lb. wife, Jackie, and his strangely named young sons, Friedrich and Fredrick. In a heavy Cantonese accent, the odd little man told Chu that he’d heard about his problem and could be of help. Cheung declared that, by coincidence, he’d been in the Thai House on the very evening when Chu’s accuser had planned the frame-up. He said he’d been sitting at the next table to the fellow and his accomplice, and had overheard the whole conspiracy. Cheung related the plot to the officers at Internal, and Chu and the second cop were exonerated. The pair sued their accuser for the false allegation and in an out-of-court settlement they each collected $25,000 for damages.
Chu was infinitely grateful to Cheung. He asked him to become his informant.
I’ve heard Cheung described as so eerily peculiar as to be spellbinding, like a fetish. I’ve also heard him described as a wasp who landed on Chu and laid an egg inside him, the spawn digesting Chu from the inside until there was
nothing left but a shell.
Chu’s colleagues on the Asian squad suspected an unhealthy affiliation when, despite Chu’s claims that he was impressed with Cheung’s underworld knowledge, the quality of Cheung’s information turned out to be “pitiful.” Nothing he ever told Chu came to anything and the squad refused to put Cheung on the payroll. Chu protested that Cheung’s intelligence was “global,” but Chu’s teammates thought he was acting overly grateful after being saved from the investigation that had almost ruined him. According to one source, when Cheung continued to court Chu, bolstering his ego with worshipful praise, Chu was “ordered to go off this guy, he was bad luck.” Most on the squad believed Chu had followed orders, because Cheung’s information stopped coming in.
What seems clear is that Cheung knew Chu’s needs. He now addressed them by proposing he become Chu’s private source in a fantastical project worthy of the spy thrillers that Chu still read.
Cheung told Chu that, off the coast of Florida, upwards of $100 million was buried under the seabed in waterproof duffle bags. The money had been placed there by a Chinese organized crime syndicate and, as the story evolved, the Irish Republican Army was said to be the ultimate recipient of the cash. To an uninformed ear, the tale would have sounded delusional, but Chu had access to a secret intelligence report prepared in the mid-1990s that documented a connection between the Chinese Triads and IRA arms financing via the Caribbean. At the time Cheung told Chu of the connection, nobody outside the law enforcement loop knew of it. This bolstered Cheung’s credibility, but Chu seems never to have considered that other informant handlers could have shared tidbits of such a “secret” report with Cheung in exchange for information.
Lured in by a desire to stop IRA terrorists, Chu gave Cheung his home telephone number and then his home address—his first clear violations of informant-handling protocol. Cheung then introduced Chu to Jackie and his sons Friedrich and Fredrick. The boys’ strange names came from the fact that Cheung loved the film The Sound of Music and had decided to name his first-born son after Friedrich von Trapp. The nurse at the hospital had mistakenly anglicized the name on the boy’s birth certificate, so Cheung tried again three years later.
People less entranced by the Cheung family thought they were a walking sideshow, but Chu didn’t view them this way. When Cheung asked Chu if he could give him $1,500 to do some exploratory research in Miami on the sunken treasure, Chu agreed. The Asian squad had an interest in a drug case
then going on in Florida, and in 1997, at department expense, Chu flew to Miami, where he met up with Cheung.
What Chu found out in Miami, whether in substance, fantasy or through Cheung’s fabrication, caused him to return to Vancouver three weeks later in fevered excitement. To Chu, the money was real and the informants were credible. There was a map found among lockboxes, he later told his family, that gave an exact undersea location in the waters off Nassau. The challenge now was to organize an expedition to raise it before the gangsters did. Cheung said he would take care of arranging a dive, but since the project would be his only employment, he asked Chu for operational and living expenses. Chu, who made $60,000 a year, borrowed the money from his parents and in-laws.
While Cheung was getting the dive together, Chu gave not the slightest indication to his colleagues that he was spellbound by a hunt for terrorist financing. He participated in a string of high-priority operations and his investigation reports and requests to obtain warrants were, as usual, flawlessly prepared. His handling of informants was above reproach.
By the beginning of 1998, Cheung had burned through a fair bit of Chu’s yearly salary but was no closer to retrieving the duffle bags. On one of Cheung’s trips to
Vancouver, the men discussed ways to keep the project funded and had a brainstorm: Chu could recommend Cheung to the DEA as a paid informant. Chu made the introduction in Seattle, and whatever information Cheung told the U.S. authorities (and there’s a good chance Cheung was laying it on pretty thick), the DEA cops were impressed. They put Cheung on the payroll and assigned him a handler. Cheung, operating out of his house in Bellevue, Wash., began to gather information for the DEA in the Seattle underworld. This stint did not end successfully. Cheung was identified as a snitch by gangsters and taken for a ride. He was rescued by the DEA, but Cheung’s handler was found to be at fault for not protecting his source. The handler was demoted and the DEA dumped Cheung.
So much time had been wasted in this sidebar adventure that when Cheung reconnected with his contacts in Miami, he purportedly received some alarming news. There were plans afoot to raise the money from its underwater hiding place and put it on a cruise ship sailing out of Nassau. The Triad gangsters who would take possession of the $100 million would be masquerading as cruise ship employees, having switched identities with the real employees via the agency of peoplesmugglers. Luckily, Cheung said, he’d been able to make contact with an agent in MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service. “Uncle” (as the agent was code-named) was desperate to intercept the duffle bags, promising that if Chu and Cheung could steer MI6 to the money before the IRA received it, recognition by the Queen would follow.
Chu gave every impression that he believed this story, even as his wife looked on in wonderment as he spent his spare time scanning the schedules of cruise ship companies and running down leads on Asian people-smug-
glers. He forwarded his information to Uncle, via Cheung, meanwhile acting normally in every other aspect of his life. Chu’s performance on the job remained as superb as ever and he was promoted to sergeant, transferred to patrol as part of a normal rotation, and then, in 2000, informed that he was being given the job as head of the gang squad.
Somewhere within that time frame, a secret meeting in England supposedly took place between Cheung and a squad of MI6 agents. Cheung apparently came out of the meeting a bona fide MI6 operative, and Chu introduced him as such to his brother-in-law, Michael Samson, when the pair wandered into Samson’s restaurant on Broadway. “I looked at this guy,” Samson recollected, “and he seemed like a bit of a shyster to me because he couldn’t look me in the eye.”
Still, Cheung’s ostensible position on the inside of the most sophisticated intelligence operation in Europe gave him access to breaking info known only to the Queen’s secret agents. One day, Cheung ecstatically reported that, thanks to Chu’s efforts, the IRA money had been located and quarantined somewhere between Nassau and the rest of the world. Whether it was seized or left as bait for terrorists is still not clear to anybody who’s heard the story. In the words of Andy Nimmo, “As far as we know it was all a total lie, but Cheung somehow conned Bill into believing it.” Con or not, when Cheung said that the Queen would knight Bill Chu and that MI6 would pay them each 10 per cent of the intercepted money as a reward, Chu went out and bought himself a tuxedo.
Two weeks before Chu and his extended family were to leave for London to scoop the honour and reward, Cheung said he had to cancel his own trip because MI6 ordered him to remain “operational” in North America. He then asked for Chu’s credit card number to book the family’s airfare and hotel, and his bank card number so he could withdraw money from Chu’s account to cover expenses while Chu was gone. Chu handed over the numbers to his life’s savings.
The central mystery of Chu’s life is why he did that, and why he didn’t recognize, as his wife did, that the project was either totally false or mostly false. Chu was a first-class detective. He dealt with bamboozlers all the time. Was something else going on between Chu and Cheung that was unrelated to intercepting IRA financing? Did he really believe he would be knighted and handed $10 million? Or was he experiencing the onset of a personality disorder? “We’re not sure of that,” says Andy Nimmo, referring to mental illness. “There are things that have happened that would lead you to think it’s been a contrived thing from the beginning. He may well have some
type of personality disorder, but there’s more than that.” To both Nimmo and Bill’s brother Ivan, the tale of anti-terrorism and knighthood may, in retrospect, have been a cover for a profit-oriented activity.
DID CHU REALLY BELIEVE HE’D BE KNIGHTED BY THE QUEEN AND HANDED A $10-MILLION REWARD?
On the other hand, as another relative explained, “Money was not the object of what Bill was doing. We don’t know what was really going on. What we know is that all he talked about was getting knighted.”
Chu’s family trip to England lasted three weeks, during which time he didn’t appear to be up to anything else besides preparing to meet the Queen. Cheung had booked the party into the Ritz for $1,500 per room per night, and they didn’t leave the hotel for the first three days, with Chu practising his bows to the Queen, ready for the call that would tell him to leap into formal dress. On the fourth day, Cheung called and said they all had to move to the Hilton “for security purposes,” then to the Hyatt, then to the Marriott. They hopscotched around London in this manner until Cheung called to say there was a hitch at the palace, the Queen was tied up, and Chu wouldn’t receive his knighthood on this trip. Back to Canada Chu and his family went, to discover that Cheung, down in Bellevue, had been withdrawing the maximum amount from Chu’s cards daily. Chu was still untitled and, with the costs of the trip, was now in debt for about $100,000.
Cheung had a short-term plan for covering the debt. He was a whiz at finances, and worked out what he called a “mortgage reversal.” If Chu gave him the paperwork to the mortgage of the family home, he’d get the British government to flow some of the
millions in reward money into paying off his house. Meanwhile, he’d continue lobbying MI6 to get the Queen off her throne long enough to make Chu a knight.
The mortgage reversal was put in place, but without any reward money being deposited by the British. Instead, Cheung said he had to take a loan against the house to cover “bridging expenses.” Cheung’s explanation for the loan must have seemed logical to Chu because he excitedly called a meeting of all his relatives. “Bill told us we’d get all this money,” Ivan Chu told me. “They would pay off everybody’s mortgages and all the kids’ university would be paid for. The whole Chu family would never have to work if they didn’t open their mouths.” As Ivan recollected, Bill then told the gathering, “ ‘What I need is everybody’s bank account numbers and your loan numbers so we can give it to the British government and they can put the money in the bank.’ He said, ‘Put down the amounts of your mortgages.’ So everybody did that.” At the time, Ivan was still “in awe” of Bill’s reputation as a police officer, and he, like others at the family gathering, believed Bill’s story about the vast reward from Bill’s anti-terrorism efforts. But then Ivan suddenly backed out. “Bill said, T need a signed blank cheque from you.’ I said, ‘Whoa! What’s that for?’ He said, ‘We have to give it to Albert.’ I said, ‘No! I don’t give money to Albert! Absolutely not!’ ”
Ivan was out of the deal, but the rest of the family, still trusting Chu, stayed in. With the numbers to the family wealth in hand, Chu and Cheung flew off to open a bank account in Taiwan under the auspices of a front corn-
pany Cheung set up for Chu, called Brittany. At that point, the pair increased the maximum credit on the family’s cards and began to deposit the money in Taiwan, again to cover bridging expenses. In this period, Bill Chu’s mother-in-law noticed $60,000 had been withdrawn from her accounts.
These were the kinds of shenanigans that caused Ivan Chu to later speculate that there could have been another purpose to the duo’s scheme besides a queenly reward. Were they involved in get-rich-quick investments? Or were they perhaps engaged in unseemly activity? The latter guess is given some weight by Chu’s paranoiac belief, expressed daily to his family, that the RCMP were watching his every move. Ivan told me that a fraud charge might well have been on Bill’s mind. “Fraud’s obviously the first one,” said Ivan. “Because how else is he getting the money? He’s defrauding everybody. Or else he’s delusional.”
Cheung began expanding his investigations, which required trips back to Florida, over to Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, and all of this travel cost money, particularly because Cheung flew first class and stayed in five-star hotels. To cover the trips, mortgage reversals on the homes of Chu’s parents and his wife’s parents were activated and Chu began taking personal loans from everyone he ran into, including an $85,000 loan from a Chinese businessman he’d helped out when the man’s daughter had been in a jam, and who still felt grateful to Chu.
In August 2002, at the height of this borrowing frenzy, Ivan demanded to see proof of his brother’s and Cheung’s ties to MI6. They invited him to fly to Toronto, where they were supposedly meeting with the British. When Ivan checked into their hotel, Cheung leaned on him for $50,000. “You knew what I wanted before I came here,” Ivan recollects telling Cheung. “So you show me the paperwork and introduce me to somebody from
the British government so I can look at his credentials and put my mind at ease.” To that Cheung replied, “You know we can’t do that, this is not how the MI6 works.” Ivan was furious. “Now I know you’re bullshitting me! You’re nothing more than a low-life rat fink!” Ivan remembers that “Bill was just appalled,” and told him, “I need to talk to you.” Ivan said, “No, I’m talking to Albert!” He then ordered Albert to “ ‘send in the British guy now,’ but he never did.”
Although Chu was going through money like a hay-burner, he spent none of it on himself, handing it all over to Cheung. He was not a drug user (he was monitored and never tested positive), and he was not going to places famous for big-time gambling, such as Las Vegas, Macau or Atlantic City.
Why, then, was he giving his money and reputation away to Cheung? In the late fall of 2003, it became a question that Internal Investigations became interested in. According to one cop who was called in for an interview with Internal, “They [Internal] were involved in another investigation about information that may have left the department. That’s what we were talking about. What is the situation of Bill, what is his mental state, what is going on?” The cops at Internal decided to investigate Chu. Was Chu, who held the password to gigabytes of confidential information, giving some of it to this shady char-
HE BORROWED $1 MILLION FROM FAMILY AND LOCAL BUSINESSMEN BEFORE HE LEFT
acter Cheung? What was the real truth behind their relationship?
Sgt. Bill Chu did not react to this investigation the way he had to the last one. He seems to have felt the matter could be cleared up when he explained the big project he’d been working on. After listening to his summary, the Internal cops recommended Chu for a psychiatric examination and he went on paid leave. Chu told his family that the psychiatrist’s report came back stating that he was thinking clearly and not suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. The cops then recommended Chu for psychological counselling, and, again according to what Chu told others, he proved balanced and rational during numerous sessions.
But he was doing irrational things. He continued to pursue personal loans, and apparently the police became aware that he’d asked one of the richest men in the city for $300,000. Then, on Jan. 23, 2004, Chu was driving to Seattle with Cheung when a U.S. border agent checked Cheung’s status and hauled him out of the car, arresting him on a warrant that listed five counts of bank fraud. Despite the fact that Chu knew his relationship to Cheung was being scrutinized, he stayed in contact while Cheung was held in custody for four months awaiting trial, offering him advice as Cheung plea-bargained to a guilty plea on one count and was sentenced to time served plus five years’ supervised release. Chu continued to quietly offer Cheung his companionship even after Cheung violated the terms of his parole and was declared a fugitive on June 6, 2004The cops in charge of Chu’s internal investigation could not link Albert Cheung’s fraud charges to his dealings with Chu, nor was Chu charged with sharing police information. At the very least, though, Chu had been maintaining an improper relationship with a source. The seriousness of the improper relationship lay in the astonishing tale of the seven-year business partnership between Cheung and Chu while Chu had conducted his duties in the Asian and gang sections. Another officer questioned closely by Internal informed Chu’s family of the importance the department was placing on settling the matter with discretion. “It could open up a whole can of worms,” the family member was told. The officer referred to “all the court charges and any criminals that had been charged whose cases Bill was involved in.” A decision, he said, had been made by senior management that it was time to make Chu an offer and have him quietly retire. (Asked direct questions about Bill Chu’s activities, a VPD spokesman said “it’s a human resources
issue and something we’d never discuss.”) By the fall of 2004, the terms of Chu’s separation from the force were worked out with his lawyer, Kevin Woodall. Chu’s paycheques continued for another year and his pension was not jeopardized, according to family. Near the end of2004, Chu took off for Hong Kong and met up with Cheung, now on the run from U.S. authorities. In Vancouver, news of the affair never became public, to the relief of those in the VPD who wanted Chu out of their hair.
Five months later, Bill Chu invited to Hong Kong a gorgeous Vancouver woman he had become intimate with in July 2004, and whom he’d never informed that he’d left the department. “I joined him thinking he was a Vancouver police sergeant on a secret assignment,” she told me in the bar of the Bayshore Hotel, sitting beside her accountant, Ken Lee, who was still trying to sort out her devastated finances. Over an eight-month period in Hong Kong, Chu charged $300,000 to her credit cards and bank cards, giving it all to Cheung, who spent it on trips and $l,000-anight rooms. By the time she left Chu, in November 2005, the couple was living in Kowloon’s skid row. She says that before she flew home, Cheung warned her that if she revealed the mission he and Bill were on she could be liquidated by their enemies, a cabal of corrupt cops he called “the C-Team.” Apart from this woman, Chu was out of touch with Vancouver for two years. He left a lot of financially devastated relatives behind and not many of them wanted to hear from him for a while. But late last year, Chu broke his silence in a spectacular fashion, opening his life to renewed scrutiny. Since then he has been phoning dozens of people—sometimes several a day—pleading for money in any amount that can be spared, always requesting that the cash be sent via electronic means that do not require an address to which he can be traced. Just as alarming are his desperate requests for the telephone number of the deported one-time heroin trafficker, Ray Chau, now in Macau but out of Chu’s reach because Chu has long since overstayed his visa in Hong Kong and cannot travel to the gambling capital to find him.
Relatives in Hong Kong who have answered Chu’s pleas for cash say they have been greeted by an old fellow with dark sunken eyes who weighs a shocking 110 lb. They say Chu briefly manages a remnant of his handsome smile, but that once he is given some cash the smile disappears and he shuffles away, leaving one woman so distraught that she burst into tears. Bartenders report that Chu is in the constant company of Albert Cheung, and that tough
`IF YOU COULD POSSIBLY 4SSIST Mr,' CHU SAYS. `I DON'T HAVE A CREDIT CARD, AND I'M LOW ON FUNDS.'
types surround the pair, seemingly guarding against Chu’s escape. “He’s his money-slave,” Chu’s brother Ivan told me, expressing a fear that when the money contacts run out, so may Chu’s time on this planet.
Nobody can reach Bill Chu directly. He makes his many calls from an ever-changing roster of phones, which are never in service after he hangs up. He’s told Ivan he’s convinced the RCMP are planning to put him in jail, and refuses his offers of an e-ticket home. In November I wrote Chu at his email address, reminding him of our old times together and telling him to give me a call. The tormented ex-sergeant took until Jan. 24 to phone, his greeting rising above the sounds of a Hong Kong bar. When I mentioned I’d heard he was down to 110 lb., he denied he’d lost that much weight. “I’ve lost a few pounds. I mean, [it’s] understandable, the things I’m going through right now.”
I asked what he was going through, but he replied, “I don’t really want to talk on the phone right now.” I explained that I’d “heard from all these sources that you were phoning a lot of people asking for money. The word was—” I was about to say I’d heard he’d borrowed over a million dollars, but he cut me off. “Yeah, okay, well, without getting specific on the phone here, I’m in a position where I’m kind of financing my own involvement with a certain government that will reflect badly on our government, and it goes way back.” He referred to a 12-year-old visa-for-sale scan-
dal at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong, which I knew had long since been exposed by a Mountie and had been well-covered in the press. “All that sorta stuff,” he said. “Uh, I don’t have much time to talk.”
I responded that I was quite concerned about his relationship to Albert Cheung. Abruptly, he asked, “Do you know that gentleman ... by name or by sources?” I said, “I know his history very well, Bill, and he was never the kind of guy that I thought you would be so enmeshed with.” He replied, “We may have to speak face to face at one time,” but when I asked if I could come over to see him he merely held the option out as “a possibility.” Then he took off on a ramble that would have made no sense to anybody except those who knew his story: “I wanna bring this to a conclusion, and I’ll stick by [it]. I financed everything myself and a certain department of justice—that’s just the rules—they cannot give me a penny until this is concluded. I mean, there is a retirement package for me at the end of all this, and I certainly believe it, that’s one reason I’m sticking through this. And I need to facilitate a few travel tickets to get to my final destination.” He would not tell me his “final destination,” except to later describe it as a “certain particular area of the world that’ll safeguard me, for the time being, anyway. There’s still things at stake here, that not everybody knows either, and that’s the other side of the story.” When I told him I couldn’t find any evidence of money under the water for the IRA, he cut me off, and when I asked if I could speak to someone in MI6, he said, “Perhaps some person may visit you—just be open-minded about it.” Then he asked me for money. “If you could possibly assist me, I don’t have a credit card, and I’m low on funds, and I’m just existing until I can get things arranged here.”
As we said goodbye, my questions about Bill Chu were legion, unanswered by his responses, although it was hard to concentrate in the face of his continued delusions about the vast payoff that awaited him. “The rules are that they can’t give Bill Chu a penny until all this is said and done,” he told me. “It’s been a long time and a lot of strain, and a lot of people I know are wondering.”
I was one of those people wondering, along with the entire Chu clan, a city police force, and now, probably, a million others. M